Many educators ponder this question: “How do I get my students to want to learn?” Some students do not necessarily want to come to school every day and be challenged to achieve high standards. Traditionally, motivation has been applied with a simple input-output model. Teachers praise students for their hard work and support their motivation to persevere through difficult situations. This cause-and-effect model could very well work in many instances; however, educators and researchers alike need to understand that student motivation is more complex than that. Cause-and-effect may be easily replicated within a laboratory, but not necessarily in a classroom. Why? Because students come to schools with a host of social contexts, including religious backgrounds, family dynamics, race, socio-economic status, and other factors, which all affect motivation.
Good teachers know how important it is to give students regular opportunities to collaborate with each other. Small group discussions can be a fantastic way to challenge students to think critically, while giving them social support to work through their ideas in a circle of peers, instead of in front of the class as a whole. However, the first time I tried a small group discussion in class, I quickly realized most of my students were more interested in talking about the latest video game or weekend plans than their assigned discussion topic. Some teachers are wary of small group discussions for precisely that reason.
So how do you give students the opportunity to share their ideas with each other, while ensuring they are actually discussing the topic at hand? If a fail-safe way exists, I haven’t found it yet. However, I have found a number of strategies that help to keep students on-task.
Observe these 6th grade math students working with each other to learn different types of angles and triangles by using strings as manipulatives. These newest additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel come from Lanai High and Elementary School in Lanai City, HI.
Clips from a 3rd grade English in Sedro-Woolley, WA are the newest additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel. Janell Doggett facilitates a discussion on comparing and contrasting using George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as examples.
In this lesson, students start by thinking about "trends" in general and then narrow their focus into looking at trends in the periodic table. These additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel come from a 10th grade science lesson delivered by Steve Cornell and his students in Lahaina, Hawaii.
The newest additions to the Classroom Clips playlist on our Powerful Teaching and Learning channel come from a 7th grade math lesson delivered by Breck Ivy in Highline, Washington. Students work in groups and pairs while learning how to analyze and organize data through stem and leaf plots.
I am sure most us remember hearing stories from our grandparents or great-grandparents about the one-room school house, where students sat in wooden desks, the teacher was almost always female, and a shiny red apple stayed on the teacher’s desk. Students of varying ages sat and watched as the teacher reviewed how to write cursive letters, or they worked on perfecting their penmanship skills. Students usually were taught to be respectful and quiet, and to mind their manners. I certainly did not grow up in this era, but I do remember getting in trouble if I asked my neighbor to help me solve a problem because that was considered cheating, at least in my experience. Gone are the days of reading, writing and arithmetic. You may ask yourself, “What?! Students aren’t learning the most fundamental subjects needed to be a functioning citizen?” Well, that is not quite the case.
We have come a long way since those days. With a vast educational reform movement underway, we are no longer expecting the typical bell-shaped curve, where the average student will rank at the top of the curve, with lower-performing students on the left-hand side (indicating possible learning disabilities) and higher-performing students on the right-hand side (indicating possible high potential). There are three big concepts behind this: rigor, relevance, and relationships.
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